Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Le Tour de France

19 teams, 153 riders, 3,500 kilometres, 6 major awards, all in a hell-brakes-loose endurance race, yes it is the Tour De France. A 23-day event and 21-day road / endurance race that has been active since 1903; with route that stretches almost all of France going through neighbourhood and countryside. And unlike a regular race on a race track, indoor or outdoor, the teams have a mobile pit crew on wheels providing coaching, parts, water food and medication while the racing is pedalling for the win.

Since 1903, the race has claimed at least 4 racers, one from drug overdose and another one from a fatal accident, here is a list I made about the said fatalities during the race.

1910: French racer Adolphe Helière drowned at the French Riviera during a rest day.

1935: Spanish racer Francisco Cepeda died after plunging down a ravine on the Col du Galibier.

1967: July 13, Stage 13: English rider Tom Simpson died of heart failure during the ascent of Mont Ventoux. Amphetamines were found in Simpson's jersey and in his blood. His death prompted officials to accelerate drug testing.

1995: July 18, stage 15: Italian racer Fabio Casartelli crashed at approximately 88 km/h (55 mph) descending the Col de Portet d'Aspet. Casartelli hit his head on a concrete block and died on the scene. He did not have a helmet; although the race doctor who attended to him maintains that it is unlikely one would have saved him as it would not have protected the part of his head that hit the concrete block.

Non-racer fatalities

1957: July 14, motorcycle rider Rene Wagter and his passenger Alex Virot, a journalist for Radio-Luxembourg, slipped on gravel and went off a road without barriers in the mountains near Ax-les-Thermes.

1958: An official, Constant Wouters, died after an accident with sprinter André Darrigade during the final stage of the tour at the Parc des Princes.

2000: A 12-year-old from Ginasservis known as Phillippe was hit by a car in the Tour de France publicity caravan.

2002: A seven-year-old boy, Melvin Pompele, died near Retjons after running in front of the caravan.

Aside from the casualties, the race was even more popular in the Livestrong regime. Lance Armstrong, the 7-time world champion, born in 1971 and was on top until 2005 when he retired. As per great sources Armstrong has a high lactate threshold and can maintain a higher cadence (often 120 rpm) in a lower gear than his competitors, most noticeably in the time trials[citation needed]. This style is in direct contrast to previous champions (e.g., Jan Ullrich and Greg LeMond) who used a high gear and brute strength to win time trials. It is believed that a high cadence results in less fatigue in the leg muscles than a lower cadence requiring more severe leg muscle contractions. Ultimately the cardiovascular system is worked to a greater extent with a high cadence than with a lower, more muscular cadence. Because the leg muscles are taxed less with a high cadence pedaling style, they recover faster, and the efforts can be sustained for longer periods of time. Armstrong dedicated a significant portion of his training to developing and maintaining a high cadence style.


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